Job embeddedness theory : can it help explain employee retention?

Jeffery A. Young, University of Louisville


Job embeddedness theory, as introduced by Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, and Erez (2001), offers a method of discovering why people stay in an organization. By analyzing the construct’s three dimensions (links, fit, and sacrifice) within both community and workplace contexts, an overall level of embeddedness was determined and then used to examine retention among Extension agents (N = 454) in the Kansas and Kentucky Extension Services systems. An Internet-based survey was used to gather background data and responses to various scales (embeddedness, job satisfaction, organization commitment, engagement, intent to stay, and discretionary effort). Research questions were examined through the use of correlations, analyses of variance, and linear regression analyses. This dissertation is divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 gives a historical overview of the problem of retention. Chapter 2 examines the major theories used to both explain and influence retention, specifically job embeddedness theory. Chapter 3 contains a discussion of the research design, study population and sample, sampling procedure, instrumentation, and data-collection procedures. Chapter 4 presents the results of the study and is divided into sections on demographics of the study population (including a comparison of nonrespondents, respondents, and late respondents) and results of the main analysis. Chapter 5 provides a summary of the study; a discussion of the results; implications for theory, research, and practice; and a discussion of the limitations of the study. In summary, statistically significant differences in job embeddedness between Kansas and Kentucky Extension agents were present during the study period. Regression analyses showed that job embeddedness was significantly correlated with and predicted unique variance in intent to stay. An examination of the background variables showed that age, education level, and geographic state of employment significantly influenced certain component of job embeddedness.